May 2011

It looks like spring is finally here.  Now we can get to growing all those items we researched and ordered over the long and cold winter. Each year we plan to add some new groupings or varieties of certain fruits to start our trials and breeding programs with. As the breeding or research continues we will probably add 1 or 2 new varieties to each group per year for further study.  The plant world is an ever changing and improving thing and we are fully involved to find and provide the best adapted toNew Mexico and similar climates.

Last year we started 8 different fig varieties.  It is early in the year and with the super freeze this winter our results as yet are not fully known with figs,  however it looks promising that we will have several varieties that can be overwintered in our area with minimal adaptations to environment. The University of California at Davis, National Clonal Germplasm Repository kindly donated 24 new (to us) varieties as cuttings this past spring for our experimentation.  We hope to find at least 4 that are suitable for outdoor production here. 

The next grouping we are working with is Pomegranates, one of the newly designated ”Super Fruits” promoted for all it’s health benefits.  We are working with a few American varieties and some cold hardy Russian types which show great promise.  We hope this summer to add 2 other kinds from Russia or Middle East. 

Juneberries and Honeyberries are 2 groups we also  have added to this year.  In the honeyberries we will be crossing 2 Russian varieties and testing 3 Canadian types which have been newly released from the University of  Sasckachewan program.  Juneberries we will trial 4 proven fruit types to see which is most adaptable.

In tree fruits (and nuts) we are working with various Mountain Ash and their crosses along with Almonds.  In the almonds we are trying varieties imported from the Ukraine and Russia to get a later bloom time that will hopefully escape our erratic springtime freezes.

Seaberries and goji berries are being added to with hopefully some selections available for sale this fall.

As time permits we will expand on our writing and findings in each of these groups


This year’s once in 40 or 50 years freeze was a good time to test the varieties we have chosen and I am glad to see they held up very well to what Mother Nature could throw at them.  If they made it through this winter they will make it in any other winter.   But I have had many questions based around  “Why is it that some trees get damaged and others of the same kind don’t at the same temperature?”  So here is my short list ( top ten list):

1. Variety type – The plant was originally developed to be a hardy variety maybe to be grown up north or from another country so is genetically predisposed to endure more.

2. Location – If they are the same variety but grown in different climates, generally the ones grown in a warmer locale will not handle the cold as well as the same variety in a  colder climate.  It just hasn’t “hardened” the same.

3. Wet Soil – will move cold fast whereas dry soil will hold more air and insulates the roots better, especially if it is a quick short freeze.

4. Organic soil content – see #4 above, more organics= more air in “looser” soil.

5.  Mulch –  versus none of course helps to insulate.

6. Wind – The same temperature with wind will affect trees greatly.

7. MicroClimate – large rocks or block walls will hold and release some heat helping protect plant.

8. Length of Time – While it got to a certain temperature, how long was it there?

9. Time of year – In the middle of winter when trees are fully dormant they can handle much more cold than in late fall or early spring, especially if there is some sap movement in these times.

10. General health – how the tree has been cared for, proper level of fertilization,  amount of water and growth in summer, hardening off for dormancy etc.

I wanted to share this email from Charles and Lili and some observations


We purchased ten apple trees from you last fall.  Dont know if you remember but we were the couple with the little red Tacoma who live SW of Edgewood.  It looks like all ten trees made it through the bitter cold we had this winter.  Don’t know if you would like to share what we did, or even if what we did had any thing to do with it or we just go lucky. 

We dug 4x4x4 holes with a back hoe and then shoveled the dirt back in  mixed with compost and fresh manure about 50% dirt and 25% each manure and compost.  We then watered the holes thoroughly and kept them wet, but not waterlogged for a couple of weeks.  The soil we have is very hard packed clay.  After two weeks we planted the trees around mid Sep. 

The trees experienced no loss of leaves or signs of transplant shock.  Two of the trees also started blooming.  We kept them sheltered from the wind in their pots and against a wall of the house where they got morning sun for about 5 hours.  They maintained their leaves well into the fall.  

My guess is that the fresh manure helped keep the roots warm.  The manure was not in contact with the roots, and the freshly turned soil would have trapped a lot of air, helping to insulate the roots. I’d be interested in any thoughts you have, and/or suggestions.  Thanks again for the good trees you sold us. 

Have a good one, 

Charles and Lili

 Charles and Lili,  Normally I wouldn’t recommend amending the soil like you did because when the roots grow to the edge of the hole the soft dug soil/hard clay interface acts just like a container plant and the roots will circle the hole instead of spreading.  However the benefit of going 4 feet with a backhoe is a little different story.  Our soil is so poor that almost anything added is a plus.. By moving trees into the shade it cooled them and they got less sun thereby somewhat simulating winter.  Planting in direct sun with a lot of water then simulated spring and bloom time!  I have seen this done before when a tree is not watered or watered poorly thru the summer (causing some dormancy) then in the fall gets a lot of water it will bloom.  So by radically changing the environment we can fool them.  It seems to not have any effect on the next spring cycle and they seem to bloom again on time and correctly.  Sure is fun to see the blooms in the fall and impresses your neighbors.

 As for the manure keeping the soil warm thru the freeze, I don’t think so.  While the biological activity of it decaying will produce btu’s most of that would have played out well before the February freeze.   Generally speaking apple trees are very hardy in this area.  Where the problem comes in is freezing of the blooms or newly pollinated blossoms that are very tiny apples.  The vegetative portion of the tree is rarely harmed by cold just the fruiting buds or flowers.  Now what you are looking to see is if the cold killed the fruit buds or damaged them,  They should be blooming now so you can see if that was harmed of course different varieties have slightly different bloom times but you should be seeing lots of flowers now. 

 I am seeing some damage on the fruiting buds this year over last as noticed by less flowers but overall I think things came through much better than I expected.. As for suggestions I would discontinue the manure since it will raise the soil ph and bind up some minerals etc. from being used by the tree.  Most notably calcium and iron, these will be important as you start to get to fruiting age.  Also the excess N will give lush vegetative growth at the expense of fruit crop   I would look at mulching right  now with shredded or chipped wood.